A Lesson on How to Describe a Witch



I thought it would be an interesting idea if I could get you involved with creating a character. I have chosen a witch because although there is a lot you can do with a witch; most people describe them as having green skin and a hooked nose. Although this is fine, there are far more traits that you can work with so I thought that I would write some of these ideas down for you and perhaps show you how to create a far more interesting character.  Some of these ideas can help you to build any character, especially if they are wicked!

So the first thing you will usually decide is actually how the witch is going to look. The best thing to do is get an image in your head or even look at a picture. Pinterest is a great way of finding these kind of images and also for gaining inspiration.

Usually the first thing you may think about is her face. Is your witch repugnant/monstrous/ghastly or simply hideous? How would you describe these features? World weary or wizened? Perhaps decayed or care-worn. Her skin could be wrinkled beyond recognition or she may suffer facial hair that’s as tough as a broom. She could even suffer pitted or pockmarked skin.

You can take into account things such as her eyes. What shape are they? Would you say they were like a cat’s, cunning and shrewd or perhaps they are like a snake’s – hooded and calculating?  Her eyes may glow fiercely, look savage or show raw hunger? Do they flash with cruelty or shimmer with spite? Perhaps they blaze with hatred or shine with cunning curiosity?

Already we are building a picture that doesn’t look like the ‘Wicked Witch of the West’ and the character you are creating is no longer such a stereotype.

Let’s carry on with her main features:

 Her hair – is it like straw or is it matted, dark and lice infested?

What about her nose? Will you go for the traditional hooked beak or will it be slightly bulbous or even resemble something huge like a vultures?

Her lips  – are they thin and bloodless or like slits, showing a row of rotten teeth. Does she have legs that are spindly, is her back bent double?

How does she sound? Will it be a cackle? Or will her voice hiss? Some witches have a gravelly note whilst others simply rasp.

By now you should have a far more interesting character and more importantly,  you should be creating a witch that will draw your readers further into your story.


witches den

I haven’t finished yet though. There are still minor details that need addressing. For instance, what about her clothing? Is she dressed in dirty rags or wearing a gown that is fit for a queen? Where does she live? In a hovel, a den, inside a tree, a palace or in the forest? All these things will have an impact on how your reader perceives your character and are very important.

Take a look at how I have described Lilura, the witch in my fist novel Sinners of Magic

“Lilura was dressed in long, dark robes, which rested upon the straw-covered floor. The hem of her clothing was tatty with age, a string of dried dirt clinging to the bottom of her garment. She was old enough to be his great-grandmother, and her skin was dry and paper thin, wrinkled in some places and stretched to the point of splitting in others. Her face was haggard beyond any recognition, but her eyes were sharp and alive.”

I personally feel that you can sense her wickedness just by this one paragraph …

‘‘The old crone let out a hiss between her rotting teeth. ‘No, she isn’t ’ere yet,’ she answered, moving slowly towards a brewing pot. ‘Time enough for trouble,’ she added, twisting her body to shoot him a menacing grin. She flicked her tongue along her lips, tasting the fear that emanated from his life force, giving her cause for a moment of satisfaction.”

My advice to those of you who struggle with such detail is to enable yourself to be drawn in by your own character, feel their wickedness and then write about it. Have a go and let me know how you get on. Let’s face it; you can’t beat a wicked witch for grabbing your attention!